What is browser fingerprinting?
Browser fingerprinting refers to tracking techniques that websites use to collect information about you. Modern website functions require the use of scripts — sets of instructions that tell your browser what to undertake. Working silently within the background, scripts can identify much information about your device and browser that, when stitched together, forms your unique online “fingerprint.” This fingerprint can then be traced back to you across the web and different browsing sessions.
They can determine tons about the device you’re using, like its OS, your browser, the software installed on your device, what timezone you’re in, which language you’re reading in, whether you employ a billboard blocker, your screen’s resolution, and color depth, all the browser extensions you’ve installed, and even more granular technical specifications about your graphics card, drivers, and more.
Browser fingerprinting provides enough specific attributes about your device and its settings that you simply are often reliably identified out of a crowd, even the extremely large crowd of the many internet users and billions of devices. In fact, device fingerprinting can identify users with 90 to 99% accuracy.
Is online fingerprinting equivalent to tracking cookies?
Cookies and fingerprinting are completely different. While digital fingerprinting may be a new concept to several, you would possibly be more conversant in tracking cookies, which also are ready to follow you around the web.
One difference between fingerprinting and cookies is that the latter is regulated, meaning that websites are required to notify you and gain your permission to use them. That’s not the case for digital fingerprinting, which happens silently and without your knowledge or consent. And unfortunately, browser fingerprinting scripts are indistinguishable from all the other scripts required to make an online site function.
And while you’ll delete your cookies, there are no thanks to deleting your browser fingerprint. Your fingerprint allows you to be identified as an equivalent user once you revisit sites or visit other sites around the web that employ fingerprinting. Put together, information from your browsing activity provides a transparent picture of your online history, preferences, hobbies, and even life circumstances — it identifies you even when you’re not logged in to a site or if you’re using incognito or private browsing mode.
How does browser fingerprinting work?
Browser fingerprinting works because websites use scripts that run within the background of your browser. Today’s browsers have built-in software functions called APIs, which may be employed by website scripts to gather information. Generally, scripts are designed for legitimate purposes like rendering videos or photos. If we were to damn them, then most websites wouldn’t run properly — they’d “break.”
That means there’s no way for somebody to understand when websites are collecting their personal information because fingerprinting scripts look a bit like the other script running on an internet site. These scripts collect the attributes — device specifications, OS, browser settings, and plug-ins, user agents, audio and video capabilities, timezone, and more — which can be compiled into a “hash” or digital fingerprint.
Many website owners and ad networks share browser fingerprinting functionality to perform cross-site tracking. meaning they use your online fingerprint to trace you across the online and collect intimate details about you: your search history, shopping and news preferences, and more.
With the assistance of the subsequent advanced techniques, fingerprinting online allows websites to spot individuals with a particularly high degree of accuracy.
Canvas fingerprinting uses the HTML5 canvas element to force your browser to draw a picture or some text. this happens invisibly within the background, so you won’t see it happening. But the precise way your browser renders the image/text provides detailed information about your font style, graphics card, drivers, browser, and OS. Canvas fingerprinting is one of the foremost widely used digital fingerprinting techniques.
WebGL fingerprinting and rendering fingerprinting:
Like canvas fingerprinting, these two techniques force your browser to render images off-screen then use these images to infer information about your device’s hardware and graphics system.
While device fingerprinting is usually used synonymously with browser fingerprinting, it also refers to a specific technique that uncovers an inventory of all the media devices (and their IDs) on your PC. that has internal media components like your audio and video card, also as any connected devices like headphones.
Rather than forcing your browser to render a picture, audio fingerprinting tests the way your device plays sound. The resulting sound waves provide information on your device’s audio stack, including specifications about its drivers, sound hardware, and software.
Once you’ve been tracked, a profile is often compiled that has intimate details about your life. That profile is often sold to data brokers, who are already hard at work compiling the maximum amount of information possible about everyone. Data brokers combine offline information with online information, and therefore the precise details from your device fingerprint are just what they have to finish their files. Data brokers then market this information, often selling it to advertisers who use it to focus on you more effectively.
Strong anti-tracking software disguises your browser fingerprint and helps prevent advertisers from knowing who you’re.
How to prevent browser fingerprinting
Without sophisticated tools, browser fingerprinting is extremely difficult to avoid. the traditional privacy tricks — like using private browsing or Incognito mode, cleaning your cookies or search history, or using a billboard blocker or a VPN — can’t prevent browser fingerprinting. In fact, it’s such an insidious and pervasive tracking technique that even if you use all of the privacy tactics we just mentioned, your unique fingerprint remains identifiable.
While it’s impossible to shut off the website scripts that collect your personal data, because websites wouldn’t work without them, you’ll confuse the scripts by using two techniques: generalization and randomization.
Generalization refers to manipulating browser API results to make you seem generic. In other words, it masks your unique attributes and helps you blend in with the gang.
Randomization changes your attributes periodically so that your fingerprint is constantly changing and you can’t be reliably identified.
You’ll have to believe in a tool or service to try to do it for you. Because it’s out of a mean person’s range to use generalization and randomization to cover.
Another option is to use a browser that gives built-in anti-fingerprinting protection. As more advertisers use online fingerprinting, some browsers are starting to fight back with various anti-fingerprinting measures. Tor Browser generalizes users, while Brave Browser uses randomization and Firefox simply tries to damn specific fingerprinting scripts.